Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Pitch: Atomic Robo

The Pitch is a new series of blog entries that will talk about speculative superhero films, a very much "what if" concept. This is not, however, an exercise in whislisting or fanboyism; I have an Undergraduate Degree Major in Film and Television Studies and follow the film making process closely to this day. I have a reasonable understanding of the "Hollywood System" and am not interested in much more than a through thought experiment as to how some comics could make their way to the big screen, as such, we'll be looking mostly at indy comics characters and those not currently in production. That said, I may dabble with the MCU and DCEU at some stage, if the mood hits. 

Atomic Robo 
An indy comics franchise that seems poised for a major film release is Atomic Robo. The series is clever, has iconic characters, dabbles in historical fiction and never takes itself too seriously, in other words, it's perfect for mainstream cinema. As opposed to some comics, the issue with Atomic Robo isn't finding a story suitable to adapt into film, but rather, choosing one of the several excellent examples that already exist. For my money, "Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time" would be a great place to start; the story is self-contained, with no recurring villain, features some awesome guest-stars and showcases the propensity of the character to have adventures in different periods of time. 

Atomic Robo and the Fighting Scientists of Tesladyne repeatedly battle a horror from beyond our reality over decades, culminating with four versions of Robo from different times battling the creature in a place outside of space and time! 

Think Ant-Man; action comedy with superheroes. Personally, I think it's the only way to film this and get the kind of audience that will appreciate it. The story is goofy, Robo cracks jokes but there's still plenty of action, so keeping it light is essential. Atomic Robo borrows a lot from pulps, so that's the "vibe" we're looking for. Keep in mind that Robo's nemesis is an insane Raptor genius before complaining that it doesn't sound "serious". 


Atomic Robo:
I'm honestly not trying to go into fan-wankery here, but I think Robo needs to be played by a talented voice actor and a sophisticated puppet. Robo needs to do some crazy stunts, but also has no mouth and only limited facial expressions, so a Weta Workshop or Jim Henson Creature Workshop creation would fit perfectly and have the added bonus of being easy to recast for future films if acting contracts fall through. My suggestions are Billy West or Maurice LaMarche becuase of their adaptability; Robo needs to affect accents, slang and verbal tics from 1926, 1957, 1971 and 2009 and both of these actors have demonstrated the kind of talent to pull that off. Also, hiring one of these guys would be far cheaper than an a-list actor to mope about in a weird suit for two hours. 

Charles Fort: Where I think that Atomic Robo can get some mass-appeal as a film is with some big comedy names in supporting roles. Most of these roles are only going to have, at most, a half-hour of screen time, so even some more expensive actors could be brought in for not a huge amount of money. What am I getting at? I want Nick Frost to play Charles Fort, giving someone for Robo and Lovecraft to bounce off in a couple of fun scenes.

H.P. Lovecraft: He's only in the story briefly, but Lovecraft has some of the best lines and needs to be played by someone who can pull off "entertainingly nuts"; my pick would be Andy Samberg. If you don't get it, go watch the Lonely Island film or some Brooklyn 99

Carl Sagan: One of the larger roles in the film, with easily the best line in "When you return to your unobservable but empirically determined dimension of origin... tell them Carl Sagan sent you". I believe that Jason Schwartzman has the chops for this role and could fill out Sagan with ease. 

Director is a little tricky, but I can see Edgar Wright making a good go of it; he has a good grip on the kind of tone that is necessary and has shown that he can shoot action in the past. At this stage, I don't trust Warner Brothers with any comic property, but Village Roadshow have done their fair share of high-concept comedies and this is the kind of property that could get them cashing in on the superhero boom. 

Well that's the first one in the can, what do we think? Worth reading or am I just another fanboy pissing in the wind?  

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